Inspiring the Scientists of Tomorrow: Danforth Center Partners with Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation

Everyone is capable of achieving great things.

No one knows this better than the Danforth Center’s Education Research and Outreach Lab. Through their efforts to provide unique and equitable STEAM educational experiences for students in our community, they have helped children across the St. Louis region discover for themselves that anything is possible.

Today's Students Are Tomorrow's Scientists

The Lab’s dedication to strengthening and uplifting our community is shared by a hero to many in our region and around the world, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The famed track and field star, considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, is also the founder and CEO of a foundation that bears her name. Located in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation and Community Center exists to inspire young people to thrive in academics, athletics, and to enhance their community.

Joining Forces

Recently, the Danforth Center partnered with the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center and the University of Illinois to create a new, groundbreaking enterprise.

The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Food, Agriculture, and Nutrition Innovation Center (JJK FAN – I Center), located in East St. Louis, Illinois, will be dedicated to creating opportunities for young people in agriculture and plant science. Through training, mentoring, and unique learning programs, the center will teach and engage students about nutrition, food production, agriculture, and STEAM.

The goal of these programs is to provide the students a pathway from kindergarten to adulthood and ultimately inspire them to transform their community through urban agriculture, scientific research, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

I think there’s a tremendous opportunity here for agricultural research to help solve these problems.
Kristine Callis-Duehl, PhD, Sally and Derrick Driemeyer Director of Education Research and Outreach

Breaking Ground

This spring, Kristine Callis-Duehl, PhD, Sally and Derick Driemeyer Director of Education Research and Outreach, visited the new center with Taylor Harris, a graduate student in the Bart Lab. The students helped plant and tend a corn plot, where they planned to study variation. In September, they harvested, then observed the differences in sweet and commercial varieties.

While plans for the physical structure of the JJK FAN – I Center are currently being finalized, the Danforth Center has already hired a new staffer to be an instructor at the site, and the partnership between the Danforth Center, JJK Foundation, and University of Illinois has attracted a new grant in support of the initiative.

A True Role Model

During the visit in May, Taylor also took the time to speak with the students about her work and encouraged the fifth graders to find their “inner scientist.” “I’m passionate about outreach and love that the Danforth Center has made such a great effort in making ag science accessible for surrounding communities in St. Louis,” Harris said. “The children's enthusiasm was incredible and they definitely reinforced the love and passion I have for science.”

It’s important that our youth meet scientists that look like them and that come from similar backgrounds because it lets them know ‘Hey, you can do this too!'
Taylor Harris, graduate student, Bart Lab 


Join Us in Building a Brighter Future

The Grow Challenge Week of Giving (Sept. 27 - Oct. 1) is an online peer-to-peer giving campaign, spearheaded by the Danforth Center Young Friends. Early donations are being accepted now. Join us as we build a brighter future. Click here to learn more or to donate.